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Evidence Aside, FBI Says Russians Out To Steal Ideas From US Tech Firms 132

v3rgEz (125380) writes "It sounds like a scare from 1970s Cold War propaganda or a subplot from the popular TV series "The Americans," but the FBI says the threat is real: Russian investment firms may be looking to steal high-tech intelligence from Boston-area companies to give to their country's military. Many of the firms under scrutiny are in the Boston area, including those partnered with a number of area biotech companies and with ties to MIT." And while the FBI says this could be happening, as the article points out, this pronouncement seems to be based on plausibility rather than specific incidents of such theft. One relevant excerpt: "The FBI warning comes as the Obama administration has increased pressure on Russia for its annexation of the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea by levying sanctions on some business leaders close to President Vladimir Putin. In March, the US Commerce Department banned new licenses for the export to Russia of defense-related products and “dual-use” technologies that could have military applications."
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Evidence Aside, FBI Says Russians Out To Steal Ideas From US Tech Firms

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @10:46AM (#46694047)
    what they'll do is take the design, and implement a very cheap poorly implemented knock off. No real threat in my opinion...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Are you sure you're not thinking of the Chinese?
    • what they'll do is take the design, and implement a very cheap poorly implemented knock off.

      Oh...psssht....that's **all**

      wtf FBI? /sarcasm

      "no real threat"'re a moron

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Not really, some of the early computer tech they copied ended up being better than the original equipment. It's not like the west didn't get hints from Soviet designs either.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As opposed to the US, which does a far better idea of stealing ideas from other countries (especially these days with the NSA)

    • Your view of Russian programmers is the exact opposite of mine. Admittedly, we're both stereotyping Russians, but all the Russian programmers I've encountered have been top notch, or at least impressive in ways that influence me. There was a distributed computing project years ago called Find-a-Drug which simulated potential medicines. I don't remember precisely what blackbird's program did, but I remember people with large computer farms thought he was one of the best things to happen to the project. H
    • This isn't the 1960s, the world is quickly becoming entirely digital, and infinite reproduction of digital data can be bit-perfect.
    • This cavalier approach to the protection of rights of industry does not account for the potential that careful, specified products could be accomplished by a well funded adversary. Or do you believe these groups do not exist? Makes me sad and tired.
  • Big Whoop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @10:55AM (#46694131)

    All governments use (or would if they were sufficiently large enough) their intelligence agencies to steal business intelligence from corporations located in other countries in order to help their own economy. The Russians didn't just start to do this now because of the Ukrainian crisis and US sanctions.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If the NSA hadn't worked so hard to ensure that there were plenty of backdoors in our security protocols and hardware, it would be much harder for foreign intelligence agencies to exploit those backdoors.

    • The issue is that deteriorating relations reduce the negative consequences of negative actions. You don't have much incentive to play nice any more. Like how an employee who was trusted yesterday can be escorted from the building today, because he was let go.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @10:56AM (#46694147) Homepage
    Either we're looking to justify 2014's budget, reduce inquiry into the CIA, or keep americans in agreement with the narrative that america should do something, anything, about russian foreign policy that in no way concerns us ever.
    • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:13AM (#46694347)

      Well, we are bound by multilateral treaty with Ukraine to defend their territorial borders from Russia. But hey, that's just some piece of paper from years ago, not like we should have to take it seriously today.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        No, we're not. It's just a memorandum of generalize assurances, specifically the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 []. The only clause of the memorandum that remotely binds the signatories take any action (which is non military) is the fourth one:

        The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

        Well, the US/Europe submitted a resolution to the UN Security council calling for a Russian withdrawal and got vetoed by Russia. That's all it can do using the Memorandum as a legal justification for UN action. Of course, the US and Europe can unilaterally take action, but

        • And skimming the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons nothing there would seem to obligate us to intervene either.

          I stand corrected, thank you for clarifying that for me. In fact, the clause you quoted could easily be read such that we were not even obligated to seek UN action since nuclear weapons were not used. It seems like the whole memorandum is little more than a toothless declaration of intent. Russia clearly violated it's assurances under the memorandum, but there doesn't appear to

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        We are not bound to defend Ukraine. That's a complete myth. Here are the 6 clauses of the Budapest Memorandum: [] Where does it say we are required to defend Ukraine?

      • by Arker ( 91948 )
        1.) Simply not true, as another poster already pointed out adequately.
        2.) Even if it were true, the legitimate successor government which has standing to invoke that treaty was just deposed in a putsch and it's clear that no one with standing to invoke that treaty has any desire to do so. (The fact that the US has been exposed standing behind that Putsch just makes it even less legitimate.)

        Face it this is just a ginned up confrontation that does not need to be happening. The US is in such a dominant positio
    • Due to Russia's activities in the Ukraine, the US is going to start giving all Russian enterprises a hard time, any way they can.
      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:49AM (#46694783)

        Russia is only as powerful as their economy, and the best way to counter them is to hobble them economically. It also is politically destabilizing internally.

        Putin has a firm political grip, but the bargain is based on oligarchs making money and staying out of politics. If his foreign policy ambitions hurt enough economically it may begin to cost him political power. Even during the Soviet era leaders were eased out.

        • Russia is only as powerful as their economy, and the best way to counter them is to hobble them economically. It also is politically destabilizing internally.

          The difficulty is that Russia's economy is based on natural gas, which Europe doesn't have any alternatives for.
          Welcome to the global economy.

          • by swb ( 14022 )
            Russia might want to consider making friends to the West, their recent history [] with their neighbor to the East hasn't been friendly, and this neighbor is in a much better position now than they were then..
          • Welcome to the collapse of the global economy, what you are seeing is post USSR fall activity with states fighting over territory and resources. Same will happen here as everything that was taking place pre USSR collapse is presently happening in the US. Many of us refuse to see it and believe in the powers that be, but those same powers a long time ago chose to bring it down be selling future to pad their pockets of their day, the pattern repeated and it's effects have compounded, this is the damage they

    • by s.petry ( 762400 )

      A mix of all of those things is the most obvious, and add some more to that list. Make the citizens 'fear' some country and dilute any alternative opinions on what's really happening are a couple to add.

      It's foolish to think that Russia is a new threat, or bigger threat than China. China has a huge budget for espionage, Russia does not. Working in IT you will quickly find that the most sophisticated attacks are from China. Russia has a few but seem to focus primarily on black market and illegal activiti

  • by Anonymous Coward

    WTF is "based on plausibility"? Many things are plausible, like the OP is an anime android using AI to submit this article?

  • The truthers have infiltrated the FBI! Well "based on plausibility", J. Edgar Hoover was buried in his favorite dress.

    My only question is, Will any of this affect space station operations? Will the taxis raise their fares?

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:04AM (#46694227)

    Instead of stealing from everyone else, let the US do that work and then simply lift it from them.

    Never would've thought that Russia would be teaching us a lesson in efficiency...

  • See. It's not only the terrorists we're keeping you safe from, those damn evil Russkies are out there with a renewed vengeance fighting to foil your wholesome existence.


    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Your post would seem plausible if Putin wasn't saber rattling.

      • And if they hadn't just done it a few years ago. We caught them (Anna Chapman et al.) but how many have we not caught?
        • I maintain the grandparent is onto something here, men. One would have to be paying attention to come to the conclusions the two of you have proffered.

          Most folks get the sound bites. Russian's misuse Olympic money. They invade Ukraine. Bastards have spies. We need another pretext for big government surveillance programs because the terrorists are so fucking inept. ( No box office blockbusters since '01 and counting.)

          If you don't see Machiavelli in successful modern government, and yes, success = obedien

  • U.S. tech firms have ideas? Last I saw it was just a lot of - "how can I completely manipulate, patent troll, and keep an iron grip on this market"?

    Really, if you think Facebook or Google is somehow a wonderful idea, you don't understand markets. It's also a major reason the US top tech firms are failures, really, and why they have to maintain those markets so no one notices. It's a self destructive cycle.

    • When I think "tech firm" in this context I don't think Facebook or Google so much as companies like Cisco and Juniper.

  • WTF the summary is biased..."evidence aside" says the headline...then the summary continues, drawing paralells between this and the Cold War

    criminals do this **routinely**

    to think otherwise is foolish and naive

    • TFA is just as bad. The short version is that the FBI releases a general warning about Russian espionage, and a bunch of Russian VC firms swear they're not spying and have never heard of anyone doing such things.

      I've spent my share of time in counter-intelligence briefings. I was never warned about mass surveillance, firmware backdoors, or any other high-tech techniques. Instead, what seemed to be the biggest threat was the risk of foreigners listening in on casual conversations, or picking up organizationa

  • Industrial secrets for sex with hot Russian spies []. Where do I sign up?

  • Anything that the Russians can get their hands on by simply working with regular US companies, is not going to give them sudden military advantages. Any military-relevant research happening in the US is happening in secret.

    The kind of companies that the Russians are getting involved in are the type that will publicly announce any major breakthroughs or inventions on the web, because they are interested in domestic and foreign investment.

    This is just another FUD statement to try reinforce hate directed at th

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      "...happening in the US is happening in secret."
      often by corporations, who need to be reminded that security is an on going process and not an install and forget item on a spreadsheet.

      • While I agree that for some corporations, security is handled poorly, (not an expert on this, sorry) I would expect that any corporation that knows it's working on a military contract, is not the target of the FBI general alert of which comprises the subject of the article.

        This alert is a general one to tech companies in the Boston area, and not to defense contractors. As if your average tech company might just happen to be working on something with massive military potential and not know it. This leads me

        • This alert is a general one to tech companies in the Boston area, and not to defense contractors.

          It's a warning to everybody. The truck driver of the shipping company can know what vendor's parts go into the secret Foo Bar research. One of those vendors may have an overeager sales rep, who's all too happy to boast that their widgets are used on the Foo Bar project. Those widgets are designed by an engineer, who might be easily bribed into tweaking the design to have some subtle change. It's immaterial to the widgets themselves, but when embedded in the final system it might be enough to compromise the

  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:30AM (#46694555)

    Investing in companies is hardly what I would call stealing.

    Foreign companies can come in and poach talent and taxpayer funded research from Universities and the startups that come out of them. There's nothing illegal or even remotely unethical there. This is what we wanted! Russian capitalists investing in US companies, US students and US schools. Even if their goal is to move the company to Russia, that's part of how capitalism and globalization work. If we want to encourage researchers to stay in the US, we should do more to encourage direct domestic investment in startups rather than secondary investments like hedge funds.

    If we want to completely protect our basic R&D, we have to classify it. That would be sure to drive researchers out of the country.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      VC invest in tech company. Tech company gets tech contract from government. Russia has a direct line to what that is.

      • You have to disclose any foreign investors in an application for government funding; usually you have to disclose all VC firms invested in your company. If the government doesn't like your investors, they're allowed to disqualify you from receiving a contract even if the work has no security implications at all.

        If these guys are trying to invest and hide where they're from, that's different, but that's not what the FBI says is happening.

    • Exactly! Think how many hard working people come to America from other countries to invest in their own education and then put that talent to work for the U.S. immediately afterwards.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <[ten.tenaprac] [ta] [cjs]> on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:32AM (#46694571) Homepage

    They did it!

    Sure, you thought they had precious little to do when they started calling kids running DDOS scripts criminals. You knew it was bad the second and third times they created their own terrorist and handed him weapons from their own stockpile to arrest him with....

    Now.... they are releasing politically motivated propaganda. Moving on up.

  • Everyone was stealing from each other the entire time, now the guys up top have to do their dick waving to match Russian's dick waving with Ukraine. We just felt left out of the dick waving contest so here we go again.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      The FBI routinely releases information to business to describe potential vectors for security failures.
      That is all this is.
      This is a good thing, and it's something they should be doing.
      'Hey, here is a possible threat, so keep an eye out'.
      WTF is wrong with that?

  • by Archtech ( 159117 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:35AM (#46694621)

    Many years ago, I recall that the US government refused entry to certain Russian mathematicians coming to attend a major conference in the USA. The reason given was that the commies were obviously trying to steal good ol' American know-how. The funny part was that the Russians in question were actually the world experts at the time (in that particular field), so the only people who lost out were the American mathematicians who had hoped to learn from them.

    It's one thing to have a policy of pretending that all worthwhile innovation originates in the USA. It's quite another thing to start believing that's true. (See, for example, Joy's Law: ""No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else”).

  • Tom Lehrer []
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:38AM (#46694669)

    And the method is sadly pretty silly.

    Putin want's to go back to the cold war... fine. We offered his country a clean slate... Obama even went so far as to offer that reset button thing. And what do we get? This... Well, whatever.

    Back to the cold war it is then.

    And that means going back to squeezing Russia's economy into ruin.

    The ways to do that are obvious... Russia depends heavily on sales of oil and gas. Ruin them. Give their customer's cheap plentiful alternatives.

    And calm down hippies... but fracking is happening... get over it... its going to be a big thing in eastern europe at the very least and they'll ideally be able to supply themselves and sell to the western europeans that still think they can't get off oil... despite utterly failing after spending hundreds of billions trying.

    I said calm down hippies... When we get the tech to actually get off oil... such as getting a battery worth a damn... then fine. Till then... its here to stay.

    • Putin want's to go back to the cold war... fine. We offered his country a clean slate... Obama even went so far as to offer that reset button thing. And what do we get? This... Well, whatever.

      The problem is that you're viewing this from an American perspective.
      The EU has been slowly encroaching on Russia's buffer states for years.
      It finally boiled over when Russia's attempt to retain the Ukrainian Government's alignment ended with a Ukrainian revolution.

      The actual participants in this dance are the EU and Russia.
      The USA is a side actor. It's not about US.

      Also... why... all the... ellipses?

      • Ukraine has every right to allign itself one way or the other.

        It is not Russia's place to determine these things. It is just this sort of attitude that has caused Russia to squander opportunities.

        Imagine for a moment what Russia would look like if its government were more like the US government?

        Look at those vast resources... look at the trade connections... look at the resident skill population... the universities... the heavy industry...

        Russia has enormous potential IF lead by a rational government.

        What d

      • It's reasonable to point out the importance of the EU but the US is a major actor and is I think a larger worry for Russia. It was a core part of the agreement when the USSR was disbanded that NATO would not expand in its former client states. Which NATO promptly disregarded. []
        Nato is now working very hard to enroll the rest of the countries,hence the (bullshit)scare stories about russian expansionism. Russia isn't trying to expand , they're trying to save what's left.

        Also the

        • Russia has no right to eastern europe.

          And as to this agreement you say NATO broke... cite it. I have no knowledge of this agreement that NATO members signed to not expand NATO.

          Russia wasn't to reverse the collapse of the USSR. Well, that's f'ed up. The USSR was an evil shithole. And while Russia might not feel as mighty as they once did... So what? That's just ego. Russia has more then enough in their own territory to deal with and they're doing a piss poor job of it. So why should they have more? To what e

          • I didn't say there was a signed treaty about NATO expansion. This new article from the Atlantic looks like a fair primer.

            The thing is, your position is that since Russia is not legitimate they don't have legitimate concerns, therefore, whenever they push back it's for no good reason at all. My position is slightly different. Let's take the ultimate hellhole North Korea: my take is that their aggressive posturing is not only for internal use. It's also based on legitimate con

            • No, captain strawman, I did not say Russia is not legitimate or does not have legitimate concerns.

              What I said is that they have no sovereignty over countries they have no sovereignty over.

              Call me captain obvious.

              And guess which countries Russia doesn't have sovereignty over? All countries that are not Russia.

              Is Ukraine Russia?


              End of stupid argument.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How is this stealing? An investment firm BUYS ideas and SELLS them.
    How does it make any different that they are russian?
    If this where JP Morgan buys an idea (or a whole company) and sold it to Lookhead Martin would that be ok?
    Maybe US don't want to compete in the global market on equal terms...

    I'm pretty sure major firms have deals with Russia and that is used in wars.

    Luckly Im neither american or russian.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... is that the American public would still swallow this hook, line and sinker.

  • Russians, Chinese it doesn't matter. We have lots of nations in competition in many hi-tech and low-tech fields always looking for an edge. Sometimes it's not state-sponsored either. Back in the 80s, Hitachi was found stealing computer technology trade secrets from IBM in the 80s and settled out of court. [] While technology today allows for the theft of more secrets and to reverse engineer just about everything out there more quickly, it's more imperative that companies take this kind of threat more serio

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      Yep, if you are a country or a corporation then you gotta have spies (like all other big organizations need accountants and other staff to do specific jobs). As earlier post, whoop de do. What really gets me though is when we export our engineering and manufacturing offshore. Hey, they don't need spies, we will send stuff to them.
  • What To Do? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @12:59PM (#46695563) Homepage

    Russian investment firms may be looking to steal high-tech intelligence from Boston-area companies to give to their country's military.

    Oh, my. That does sound serious. Whatever can we do? Oh, I know, perhaps we should work to harden information security so that companies can maintain the integrity of their research. Futhermore, though I'm sure this goes without saying, we should fire -- and ban from any future participation in any aspect of government, government contracts, lobbying, or information security -- any person who has been involved in the intentional weakening of information security standards [].

  • by Anonymous Coward
    distraction bullshit .. nothing to see here .. moving on ...
  • Does the US seriously expect to be taken seriously after they've been busted for helping with industrial espionage and then the whole NSA / Snowden ordeal? I'd say everyone has the US to fear, no one else.
  • I hear the Russians implanted someone as high as the owner of the company. And now you can use it for free anywhere in Russia. Theft. Plain and simple.
  • It's a political attack on a selected conservative group. Most former Russians in the US are conservative. This administration has already shown that they have no scruples in attacking their political enemies by using the instruments of state. This is just another example. You can accuse me of paranoia all you want, but Obama's entire election was done through Bayesian inference micro-targeting of special groups. Since Russian Jews are (almost overwhelmingly) Republican and well-educated, they represen
  • It's annoying how members of American government, media, and industry organizations frequently take turns unilaterally accusing country X or Y for trying to steal secrets or information for US companies. Of course they're trying! So are we! The U.S. probably tops the list of countries whose citizens or organizations are trying to steal U.S. tech secrets. Exhibit A: Apple vs. Google. I suppose someone will argue that at least we don't have to worry about American companies or governments using those secrets
  • Who needs to "steal" these days? Ignoring the completely superfluous (and ineffectual) industrial/technological export restrictions, "free-market capitalism" is giving everything away. Take China for example. International corporations looking to do business with the Chinese are often required by the communist government to "share" industrial secrets with Chinese companies and/or government. And many corporations are complying because of the profit margins involved. Insidiously, the Chinese, Russians etc. a

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